Movie Review: The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023)

In April 2023, the highly anticipated Super Mario Bros. Movie was released in the United States. The movie is a computer-animated film produced by Illumination, Universal Pictures, and Nintendo that explores the origins of the iconic characters and pays homage to the video game franchise of Super Mario Bros.

Mario and Luigi, two plumbers from Brooklyn are transported to an alternate world where they join forces with Princess Peach and Toad to stop Bowser, a fire-breathing tyrant, from conquering the Mushroom Kingdom and the Darklands. Along the way, they encounter various characters and enemies from the games, such as Donkey Kong, Kamek, and Spike. The film has become a box office hit and a fan favorite.

The Basic Story

The Super Mario Bros. Movie follows the adventures of Mario and Luigi, two brothers who work as plumbers in Brooklyn. One day, they are called to fix a leak in a manhole, but they end up being sucked into a Warp Pipe that takes them to a different dimension. There, they discover a world inhabited by strange creatures and ruled by the evil Bowser, who plans to merge his realm with the human world using a powerful artifact called the Power Star. Mario and Luigi team up with Princess Peach, the leader of the Mushroom Kingdom, and her loyal friend Toad, to stop Bowser and his army of Koopas from destroying both worlds. Along the way, they encounter many familiar faces from the Mario games, such as Donkey Kong, Kamek, Spike, and Cranky Kong.

The Cast and crew

One of the movie’s draws is its voice cast, which includes Chris Pratt as Mario, Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach, Charlie Day as Luigi, Jack Black as Bowser, Keegan-Michael Key as Toad, Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong, and Fred Armisen as Cranky Kong, with each actor bringing their unique style to their respective roles.

Chris Pratt, who voices Mario, revealed that he used to play Mario games as a kid and even dressed up as Mario for Halloween. As per a youtube video, he says he used to take the change dropped at a wishing well at a Mexican restaurant and play the Mario Bros. arcade game at the Dry Cleaners’. This was before they got their own Nintendo game console after which he spent “hundreds of hours” playing Super Mario on it.

Charlie Day, who voices Luigi, jokes that he had to grow a mustache for the role. Apart from voicing the character of Bowser, Jack Black has also recorded a song for the film called “Peaches”, which is a parody of his own song with Tenacious.

Departure from the video game source

The Super Mario Bros. Movie has a number of deviations from the source material to make its plot work as a movie script. The movie features an origin story for Mario and Luigi, who are separated in an alternate world and face different threats, while in the games, they are already established heroes. Other characters have a different relation to each other as well. Donkey Kong is shown as Mario’s father and the king of the Jungle Kingdom. Cranky Kong is Donkey Kong’s grandfather and a former adventurer. Kamek is Bowser’s loyal magician and advisor. Spike is a former co-worker of Mario and Luigi who becomes Bowser’s henchman. Pauline is Mario’s ex-girlfriend and a famous singer in Brooklyn.

Another significant change from the games is the character’s personalities and roles. Princess Peach is a rebellious and independent fighter who leads a resistance against Bowser, while in the games, she is often portrayed as a damsel in distress. Bowser is a charismatic and manipulative politician who wants to marry Peach and unite their kingdoms by force, while in the games, he is a brutish and greedy tyrant who kidnaps Peach out of lust. Toad is a loyal and brave friend of Peach who helps her escape from Bowser’s castle, while in the games, he is a timid and cowardly servant of Peach who often gives her bad news.

The movie’s tone is also different from the games, which are known for their colorful and whimsical atmosphere. The movie has a somewhat grittier and more realistic tone but one which young viewers seem not to mind. Chris Pratt’s performance as Mario drew attention for his lack of an Italian accent, which was a significant departure from the character’s traditional portrayal. However, many fans don’t seem to mind this casting choice, stating that the character’s accent is not central to his personality or appeal.

Setting of the movie

The movie is mainly set in two different worlds: New York City and the Mushroom Kingdom. New York City serves as the origin and background of the main characters, Mario and Luigi, establishing them as Italian-American plumbers living and working in Brooklyn. The city provides a realistic and modern setting that contrasts with the fantastical and medieval setting of the Mushroom Kingdom, where the majority of the movie actually takes place.

The film shows six kingdoms from the games: the Mushroom Kingdom, the Jungle Kingdom, the Dark Lands, the Sand Kingdom, Yoshi’s Island, and Rainbow Road. Each kingdom has its own distinctive features and enemies, such as Goombas, Koopas, Piranha Plants, Bullet Bills, Chain Chomps, Boos, Shy Guys, and more. Rainbow Road is a famous track from the Mario Kart series.

In addition to the Mushroom Kingdom, the movie also references New Donk City, a location from the Mario games that is based on New York City. New Donk City is a city populated by anthropomorphic apes, and it serves as a connection between the two worlds of the movie. This is a nod to the fact that Mario’s character was first seen in the video game ‘Donkey Kong’.

Easter Eggs

The film starts in the Penguin Kingdom, which is based on the Ice World from Super Mario 3D World. The penguins are also seen in Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy.

The film features many power-ups from the games, such as the Super Mushroom, the Fire Flower, the Super Leaf, the Cape Feather, and the Super Star. The Super Star is a powerful artifact that Bowser uses to merge his world with the human world, similar to how he uses Power Stars in Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy.

The film also references other Nintendo franchises, such as Punch-Out!!, Duck Hunt, Wrecking Crew, Pokemon etc. Some of these references are subtle or hidden in the background, while others are more obvious or prominent, such as characters or items. For example, Pit from Kid Icarus appears as a statue in Peach’s castle. Isabelle from Animal Crossing appears as a plush toy in Luigi’s room. Link from Zelda appears as graffiti on a wall in Brooklyn. Kirby appears as a balloon at Peach’s birthday party. Samus from Metroid appears as a bounty hunter who helps Mario and Luigi. Pikachu from Pokemon appears as a pet of Pauline.

Behind the scenes

The film was produced by Chris Meledandri, the founder and CEO of Illumination, and Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Mario and other Nintendo franchises. The two met in 2014 through their collaboration on Super Nintendo World, a theme park attraction based on Nintendo games. They decided to work on a Mario film together after realizing their similar creative approaches and visions. Miyamoto was involved in every aspect of the film, from casting to animation to story development.

The film was directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic, who are best known for their work on Teen Titans Go! and Teen Titans Go! To the Movies. They were chosen by Meledandri and Miyamoto for their comedic sensibility and their ability to balance humor and action.

The film was written by Matthew Fogel, who previously co-wrote The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part. His intention was to tell an origin story for Mario and Luigi that would explore their relationship as brothers and their journey as heroes. He also wanted to make Bowser a complex villain who has a crush on Peach and a vulnerable side.

The film’s music was composed by Brian Tyler, who has scored films such as Fast & Furious, Iron Man 3, and Avengers: Age of Ultron. He said he wanted to create a score that would capture the spirit and energy of the Mario games, while also adding his own style and flair. Koji Kondo, the legendary composer of the Mario games, acted as a score consultant who provided advice and feedback on how to adapt his iconic themes and melodies for the movie.

Media Reviews and audience reception

The movie’s critical reception was mixed, with some praising its animation, humor, and voice cast, while others criticized its story, tone, and deviation from the source material. A Digital Trends review noted that the movie lacks the classic cartoon spirit of the games, making it feel dated already. However, other reviewers, such as DeviantArt, praised the movie for its stunning visuals, hilarious humor, and thrilling action. They believed that the movie captured the essence of the games while adding depth and emotion to the characters. DeviantArt has called the movie a “masterpiece of animation and storytelling,” praising its ability to capture the essence of the games while adding depth and emotion to the characters. Collider, on the other hand, has called the movie “one of the most infamous and disastrous behind the scenes productions in the history of movies,” criticizing its dark and bizarre tone and lack of focus.

Fans reaction has also been mixed. While some fans have appreciated the movie’s attempts to expand the lore and mythology of the games, others have felt that the movie’s changes and deviations are too drastic and unnecessary. TV Tropes has noted that the movie deviates significantly from the games in terms of story, tone, and characters, and may not appeal to all fans of the franchise.

Children and families who enjoy animated comedies and adventures seem to enjoy the movie. The colorful visuals, energetic action, and humor have been praised by children, who feel the same way watching the movie as they do playing the games: joyful. Some children may be scared by some of the darker and more violent scenes.

In terms of box office success, The Super Mario Bros. Movie grossed over $377 million worldwide and set several records, including the biggest worldwide opening weekend for an animated film and domestic debut for a film based on a video game. This success suggests that despite the criticism, the movie resonated with audiences worldwide.

The Verdict

Overall, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a significant departure from the game in terms of story, tone, and characters. While some critics may have been disappointed with the movie’s approach, it is clear that many viewers enjoyed the movie’s fresh take on the Mario franchise. The movie’s box office success also demonstrates the enduring popularity of the Mario franchise and its characters, and we can expect to see more adaptations of this beloved video game series in the future.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top